Legal separation is much like filing for divorce, in that you can obtain many of the same orders regarding custody, division of property, and support. However, there is one key difference: at the end of a legal separation case, you are still legally married to your spouse.
In situations where a party wants to obtain orders for child custody, visitation, and/or other issues but has not lived in the same county for the past 3 months or in California for the past 6 months to meet the time requirements for filing for divorce, that party can file for Legal Separation and amend his or her Petition to a divorce after 6 months have passed.
Legal Separation is also appropriate for some parties for religious and/or insurance coverage issues. Medical insurance companies who had previously insured a spouse under the other spouse’s medical insurance during the marriage generally terminate such coverage options when a divorce is finalized. Therefore, for spouses who would have difficulty in obtaining their own medical insurance coverage after termination of their marriage due to pre-existing medical conditions, a legal separation can make sense because it enables such medical insurance coverage to continue. The Court can make orders relating to child custody, visitation, child and spousal support and divide property in a legal separation case, but the parties otherwise remain married to each other.
Unless your circumstances fit one of those circumstances above, you should consider divorce instead of legal separation because you will still be married at the end of a legal separation case and if you later decide to divorce, you will have to file a new case for divorce.
What About An Annulment? In order to qualify for an annulment instead of obtaining a divorce, the party seeking an annulment must be able to prove that the parties’ marriage was “void” (i.e. an incestuous marriage or where one of the parties was still legally married to another individual at the same time) or “voidable (where the party seeking annulment was under 18 years of age at the time of marriage or that the marriage was entered into based upon fraudulent representations, force, or mental and/or physical incapacity). It is generally substantially more difficult to obtain an annulment than a divorce.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact The Maggio Law Firm at 949-553-0304 and at www.maggiolawfirm.com.